Let the aircraft noise roar
“PLANE NOISY” yells the front page of my local paper this week, over yet another story based on the gripes of semi-professional aircraft noise complainers whose persistent whining is vastly more annoying than the rumbles of the jets to which they object.
Aircraft noise is a hot backyard political issue in many Australian towns and cities – notably Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane. It helped Kevin Rudd build his political profile in his Brisbane electorate. But the attention it gets is thanks to the efforts of coalitions of obsessives whose biggest problem, as far as I can see, is they cannot find the remote to turn up the volume on their TVs and forget about it.
Well, welcome aboard passengers, to our short flight today to Give It A Rest. If you take a look at the card in the seat-back in front of you, you’ll find instructions for selling your house and moving to a suburb that’s not under the flight path.
OK, to be fair selling up isn’t an option for some people and for all sorts of reasons. And yes, aircraft noise has been linked by researchers to increased stress and sometimes learning problems in children and their parents not being able to follow the plot of The Wire.
But for those who perceive every overhead jet as some kind of violation of their right to peace and quiet, I have a suggestion: try thinking of the sound of those big Rolls Royce beasts as the noise of a cash register turning over as the passengers aboard blow some cash and support your local economy.
Because really, the sound of a jet’s turbine is the sound of the wheels of an economy turning. Especially when the jet is full of hundreds of big-spending tourists.
The front page of the paper was illustrated with a photo of one of Qantas’s new A380s which started flying in and out of Sydney last year. Presumably the intention is the photo will inspire anger.
I just look at those things and see something awesome, a testament to human achievement, a marvel of engineering, and something that literally carries millions of dollars into the country.
A napkin calculation: the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism says in 2008-2009 the average spend by an inbound tourist in Australia was $4514. Let’s say an A380 passing over your house has 500 people aboard and 350 of them are tourists here to enjoy a holiday.
When it passes overhead the noise you hear is the sound of $1.58 million in hard cash coming in the door, supporting jobs in hotels, retail, cafes and restaurants.
Some people complain about that noise. My response is: Yoink.
And that’s before you get to people arriving to do business that could potentially be worth much more to the local and national economy.
A recent story in the Adelaide Advertiser illustrated just how absurd and counter-productive the complaints of aircraft noise campaigners are becoming. A council mayor, Robert Bria, said he had started noticing more aircraft precisely because people had been complaining to him about it.
One of the approaches to airport there brings you right over Adelaide Oval. For a visitor with even a vague sense of sporting history it is a reassuring, inspirational sight.
Likewise with the northern approach to Sydney. On a flight some years ago I sat next to an elderly couple who, on the approach, caught the view of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House in the morning sun to our left. They exchanged some words and held hands across the armrest, then both started crying. After a visit decades before they had promised each other they would eventually return, and it was a life-affirming moment.
Little did they know they were about to enrage someone tucking into their cornflakes in Petersham.
Of course aircraft noise can be a curse, and particularly very close in to airports where it can shake the ground. And to get back to where I started, authorities routinely fail to live up to promises on noise reduction – the story in the local paper this week was about how a particular target for Sydney Airport would “never be reached”.
But on the scale of things to complain or campaign about, aircraft noise has got to be infinitely preferable to other potential community gripes like drug-fuelled burglary or random street assaults.
Planes are bringing in tourism dollars from interstate and abroad. They’re bringing our favourite magazines and cheese, interesting people and investors. This is a welcoming country with a mobile population. It’s an over-reaction to get hysterical about the noise it creates.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
@sarselack The question was to implications for public projects *like NBN* when industry is building vast internet infrastructure
Dead tree journalists D Crowe and J Hewitt get a fix in Gladstone Airport. http://t.co/NtTfOuTpGZ
Google is planning to build a wireless network to reach a billion people http://t.co/e972OOc2FT ... NBN implications?
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